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Seventh Graders Experience the Age of Discovery with a Mock Trial

Seventh Graders Experience the Age of Discovery with a Mock Trial

SWANNANOA, NC – Seventh graders at ArtSpace closed out their unit on the Age of Discovery with a mock trial experience.  Students read about the life and times of Christopher Columbus and created an illustrated timeline of his life and adventures in the Americas.  Students then explored various characters in order to represent them in the mock trial.  The characters included in the trial were Columbus, his crew, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain and a group of indigenous peoples from the Americas (The Tainos).  

A lawyer questioning the King and Queen of Spain about their choices.

A lawyer questioning the King and Queen of Spain about their choices.

Each of the characters involved were given a chance to defend their actions during the Age of Discovery.  Some students played the roles of the characters mentioned above, while others took on the role of lawyers asking difficult questions to the participants.  Whether prosecutor, defender, or witness, all parties needed to be well-prepared in order to play out the trial.

After the trial was complete students wrote a 5 paragraph essay in response to the question “who should be blamed for the death of 2-3 million Tainos?”  This project was designed so students could experience history in a variety of ways, accessing individual learning styles. Mr. Ian used the trial to assess students’ knowledge of the time by noting the detail of the lawyers’ questions and the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the responses of the witnesses.

Mr. Ian guided students through this difficult time of history.  Columbus’ discoveries

Columbus' men being questioned on the witness stand.

Columbus’ men being questioned on the witness stand.

opened a New World to Europeans, but caused great suffering for native peoples.  By requiring his students to “live in the shoes” of the characters involved in this controversial time, students were forced to see the experience from both sides.  In the end, the students were left with a greater understanding of the time period, as well as increased awareness about the interplay of multiple perspectives in history.